Monday, January 30, 2012

when we create


When I started this blog nearly 4 years ago it was out of a dire need to dump out years of what had been going on in my head. From that came an intense fascination with the creative process -- thinking about why and how my pieces came about. Originally I wrote this as a private journal page, and it has stayed alive in one version or another because this is a notion I continue to keep firmly by my side. When I start feeling disconnected from something I'm creating, I stop and think: why I am I doing this? What is driving this thought, this line, that word? What is my motivation? What emotions am I trying to channel? Is it just a brief, enthusiastic urge to make a little something? Am I doing it out of obligation or because it is tapping into something unsung within me? If I sat down an hour later to make it, would I have created something different (or would it exist at all)? Being inquisitive about my own process is what re-centers me and keeps me in tune. This reminds me that what I make is an ongoing conversation between my heart, head, memory and hands. It helps me to keep writing and creating, to make peace with my many flaws and shortcomings, to stave off the comparison demons that always loom near -- and to remember that even when I don't fully understand the answers, it is still important to ask the questions.

(new 8x10 doodle print here.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

the magic carpet



I did it! I did it! I made a magic carpet. I've wanted to make one of these for an eternity, at least a year. What gave me the final nudge I'm not sure, other than I tend to turn to crochet when I need a meditative escape. Just rows, nothing else. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until I get bored. Then someone gets a blanket out of it.

But this time I wanted a rug, and I wanted to make it with my kids' blown out clothing, and I wanted to make it in a circle. So I went here to figure out how to make a circle. And here to learn how to cut the strips and join them. Then I fumbled my way around and around and around the circle with their well worn tights and leggings, the shirts I loved but they didn't, the pants that split when they fell; I added stitches where the carpet seemed empty, and stretched it out like pizza dough along the way to keep the circle shape.

The toughest part? Getting over the horror of dissecting the clothes. It felt wrong and illegal, just like my first night out on the town after being sequestered inside for months when my kids were newborns. And I became fragile over the deconstruction of a few pieces. One navy dress in particular both my girls had worn, and outgrown, and I got teary every time the scissors went near it. I had to wait until the end of Wednesday when they were both driving me crazy and then I felt no guilt whatsoever dissecting it. Once I got past that dress, my scissors coveted everything, and I chopped with impunity.

When I ran out of material just shy of completing the rug, I made an emergency trip to the thrift store and finished it off with someone else's bottoms. Imperfect my magic carpet may be, but I'm thrilled I was able to make it from rags to stitches with my own hands. And now I plan to fly away on it. Wearing Jess Swift's boots, of course.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

give and take


We get, we give, we get, we give. Both good and bad. Cause and effect. Karma. Whatever you want to call it.

We found a sweet rose pen fashioned out of duct tape in the Whole Foods parking lot. Someone's gift to us.

A crusty resident yelled at me for leaving the communal laundry door open, then slammed it for dramatic effect. Had he asked nicely, I would have apologized and closed the door on my way out. Since he didn't, I left it wide open. My gift to him.

Third grader came home from school, and in her quest to "cause happiness" (and also to stall on her homework) she was resolute on creating an artsy surprise for our mysterious neighbor (sometimes home, often not) upstairs. Homework's gift to her: she was up until 9:00 that night finishing it. The next day while my daughter was at school, mysterious neighbor came home; I heard her trod up the stairs, pause, then squeal (not knowing anyone was listening): "OH! This is BEAUTIFUL!" My girl's gift to both the mysterious neighbor and me.

Sometimes I let people merge in front of me, because I like to be friendly to those in need, and I like to annoy those behind me. Both give and take.

I fed a few meters with my extra change. My gift to the city.

Then I got a parking ticket. The city's gift to me.

I always include an extra something with my Etsy orders. My gift to lovely people who choose my shop for their purchase.

At Stop & Shop last week some poor soul tripped and went airborne, landing in and dismantling a large display of king size Reese's Peanut Butter eggs. Hundreds of them. My kids made a beeline for the fallout while a checker and I helped the guy out of the eggs and made sure he was OK. I tried to help him feel better by telling him that it is normally my job to cause that kind of ruckus, and told him the story of when I fell down a full flight of stairs at the Wall Street Deli in Dallas and blasted a crowd of corporate lunch-goers with my tossed salad. Meanwhile my kids counted and sorted the eggs back into their boxes, thereby honing their math skills. Can I also say here that I found this more than just a bit funny so eventually I had to excuse myself to the produce aisle to regain my composure, which was then repaid in spades of bad karma the next morning. Gifts exchanged all around.

So many good, kind, genuine people have stepped up to the plate to help me manage my bewilderment and adjustment to the frenetic pace of life here -- gifts that I can probably never fully repay.

Simple thank yous. I try to give them as much as possible. They are free, easy to give, and when they're genuine they mean a lot more than the effort it takes to give them.

I'd love to keep a formal tally for a week of the gives and takes, to try to figure out what's connected and what's not, what is random and what's not, to see how much I'm giving versus how much I'm taking. But for now all I can manage to do is keep up with the actions themselves ;)

Monday, January 16, 2012



saturday was mama/daughter day in new york city! the train attendant gave my artsy girl a hearty welcome aboard, punched smiley faces in our tickets and went on her merry way. we met alice and her artsy girl at penn station and spent a low key afternoon of playgrounding, eating and shopping in union square. alice and i could have chatted for days about creativity & life (she also convinced me to dive into pinterest), and our daughters got along so well i nearly fell over. really, i haven't seen my little girl this happy since we moved here. i do think those smiley face tickets cast magic all over our day. as for that lovely train attendant, my friend lisa said when she saw this picture: "oh my, think of the world if more people were willing to play..."

Thursday, January 12, 2012



















yesterday the skies were sparkling, and stacks of work on my desk were growling at me, so i did what any self-respecting escape artist would do: i dropped it all and hid for an afternoon in the sweet, sleepy little village of hastings-on-hudson, new york. it is on the eastern bank of the hudson, about 15 minutes south of tarrytown (where i'll be visiting washington irving's home sunnyside when it reopens in the spring). this little jewel of a town was just what the doctor ordered. it cleared my head, restored order, and on the drive back to my manic life, i came up with a slew of ideas for my course get lost, and unexpectedly (and finally) solved an art problem that has been plaguing me for months. the day trip to hastings yesterday was good timing, too. it's pouring rain today, which presents its own opportunity: time to pull out jess swift's rain boots! every day has its gifts, and i'm wearing mine on my feet today. wishing you all a good one!

Monday, January 9, 2012



I have never paid the moon the respect it deserves, but my daughter does. It fits her: dreamy, nocturnal, many shades and faces, has her own calendar. She has sought it in the sky ever since she could speak. Earlier this month she wanted to know the exact date of the full moon (today!) so I did my research & doodled a chart for her so she'd know when to expect it every month. Maybe I should start a new line of visual aids & call it Chartsyville.

(8x10 doodle print here for anyone else who gets all lunar over the moon too.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

what we did

we stood on snowflakes in new york city,

took in the windows,

and got all sugared up

at dylan's candy bar.

we landed in the the Material Lab

at MoMA

where we played with paper and crayons,

fiddled around with the light table,

and stepped on textures.

we took a trip to my brother in law's bakery in Philadelphia

and took home our weight in delicious goods.

we found the delightful blast art gallery

in teaneck

and bought stuff so they wouldn't have to move it.

we took a break from the homework monster,

went back to PA and met jan (yay)! in a cafe with a wishing window,

hauled it to the town of hershey for a sundae,

hoisted ourselves up culp's hill tower for a beautiful view of gettysburg,

stood on the soil where Lincoln gave his address

and then we climbed on the battlefields.

we hit the panic bar a few times (still haven't found a house),

painted little watercolor squares to enliven the overly wickered apartment,

and doodled up the first packages of 2012 :)

p.s. also managed not to get one parking ticket during the entire break.

Monday, January 2, 2012

21 Secrets + Three Little Words for free

A new year means a new session of 21 Secrets: An Art Journal Playground! Registration opens today for 2012, and I'll be teaching the workshop Get Lost this time. To kick off the fun, I'm now offering the 21 Secrets class I taught last year, "Three Little Words", free of charge to give you a taste of my workshop style. Everything you need is in my handwritten/doodled manual below. All I ask is that you keep this for your own personal use, not for teaching or commercial gain. No video -- just follow these wordy workouts from start to finish and enjoy the process...


If you get into this and want to leave a comment on this post with a link to your pages for Three Little Words, I would LOVE to see them. We had so much fun with this workshop last year, and I know we will in Get Lost, too. The new session starts April 1, and as the name suggests, there will be 21 different workshops -- little "secrets" -- that you can take in at your own leisure. You can register starting today via any of the teachers' links (we each have our own portal to Dirty Footprints Studio and get credit for the sales when they come through our sites.) But no matter how you get there, I just hope you do. Connie has an awesome class lineup for this spring and I can't wait to dig into the other workshops. Come join us & Get Lost!